UFC Daily Fantasy Helper: UFC 266
Combat sports are one of America's longest-standing active sports to wager on. This was evident throughout the late 1900s as boxing took the sports world by storm. From Muhammed Ali to Mike Tyson, several stars were born, and Americans around the country placed bets on who would win boxing matches. Nowadays, with boxing much smaller than it was throughout the 1900s, mixed martial arts has taken the lead as America's favorite combat sport.
By far, the largest and most successful MMA organization in North America is the Ultimate Fighting Championship, commonly known as UFC. The UFC lays claim to the best mixed martial artists in the world and is showcased on both cable and pay-per-view events every month. As one of the most unique DFS sweats available, UFC daily fantasy is now live on FanDuel.
numberFire is always the best spot to get you ready for any UFC card. If you would rather bet the fights, our betting guide is a great place to find value on Saturday's card. In addition to this primer, I also dove deeper into the slate on this week's UFC edition of The Heat Check Daily Fantasy Podcast.
Without further delay, let's break down UFC 266: Volkanovski vs. Ortega, taking place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
Valentina Shevchenko ($23): Unlike many weeks that are decently open at MVP, this week, there is a control and 25 other experiments. Shevchenko is -2000 on the moneyline (a 95.2% implied probability) to defend her flyweight belt on Saturday. There is not much to discuss regarding her fantasy potential, but her stylistic shift to wrestling has been interesting. Once a feared striker, she now has at least three takedowns in her past three fights and averages 2.64 takedowns per match overall. 22 of the 29 UFC favorites since 2010 that have closed as a -1000 or greater as a moneyline favorite have won with an early finish, and all 29 have been victorious. She is worth well beyond her $23 salary in this spot.
Taila Santos ($21): Among the alternatives, Santos stands out in Shevchenko's same weight class. The Brazilian wrestler seemingly had a down fight in her last appearance against Gillian Robertson, but she only landed one takedown because Robertson was so terrified of her striking and pulled guard each round. Santos still controlled a mammoth 12:47 of that 15-minute fight, and her strong top game should be on display again against Roxanne Modafferi. Modafferi has just a 30% takedown defense, and she has just one knockdown and one submission attempt in a healthy 12 UFC bouts. Without one-shot power to save her from a terrible matchup, Modafferi likely struggles significantly against the stronger, more athletic prospect.
Other High-Salaried Fighters
Curtis Blaydes ($21): I have been vocal on my podcast that Curtis Blaydes is the best heavyweight in the world if UFC gloves were thicker. Blaydes's +1.89 striking success rate and 57% striking defense are both excellent for his size and competition, and his 6.64 takedowns per match is the gold standard of all active UFC heavyweights. This sole issue has been Blaydes's chin, as he suffered knockout losses to just champion Francis Ngannou and Derrick Lewis in fights he was arguably winning. While Jairzinho Rosenstriuk is certainly capable of that one-punch power as well, Rosenstriuk has a -0.12 striking success rate and a terrible 40% striking defense. Amazingly, Blaydes may be the stronger striker without utilizing his wrestling at all in this match, and that multi-faceted advantage makes him a strong play.
Merab Dvalishvilli ($19): "The Machine" is a well-known fantasy MMA monster behind his gaudy 7.38 takedowns per match. Strangely, this might be his toughest matchup to date but also his best opportunity to score his first UFC finish. Dvalishvilli can surely exploit Marlon Moraes's 66% takedown defense to score points with the judges, but the significant energy management disparity in this fight is worth watching. Dvalisvhill's cardio is in no question, but Moraes is just 2-3 in UFC fights that have gone past the first round with a -55 striking differential in those five fights. Moraes also has just two submission attempts in nine UFC fights, so if he can't lock up a tricky choke on the wrestler Dvalishvilli, the Georgian may be able to finish an exhausted Moraes on the mat.
Nasrat Haqparast ($14): There was no reasonabe guarantee Haqparast or his opponent Dan Hooker ($17) would be able to make it to the United States due to visa issues, but both have arrived and made weight for the best fight environment on the card. Hooker and Haqparast combine for just 0.90 takedowns per match, and both have takedown defense marks north of 79%. Translation -- this fight is staying a striking match. The bout also has a 51.5% implied probability to go the full distance according to FanDuel Sportsbook, which brings a DFS stack into play. The underdog gets a personal nod here on the basis of his striking defense. Haqparast has a 74% striking defense, which is the best mark of any active UFC fighter with five or more bouts.
Cynthia Calvillo ($10): There are six favorites on this card at -230 or greater on their individual moneylines, but a parlay of all of them has just an 18.2% implied probability to hit for a reason. One of them is likely losing, and a crucial component of tournaments this weekend will be to pick that fight correctly for a punt. Calvillo seems like a reasonable opportunity given Jessica Andrade's obvious path to failure. After Andrade has failed to stuff any of her opponents' seven takedown attempts at flyweight, it is very possible the former strawweight does not have the size at 5'1" to wrestle at all in her new, higher weight class. Calvillo could exploit that, as her 1.85 takedowns per match and 44% takedown accuracy are both plus marks in those categories.